Previously appearing on WTOP.COM…

 

I love the NFL.  Pro football was my gateway obsession when I first got into sports.  I loved getting the paper on Sunday with breakdowns off all the matchups…and I would flip between the pregame shows on CBS and NBC.  I did mock drafts when the NFL Draft was still a Tuesday in late April proposition;  I prepared preseason predictions in February, May and August and no matter how talented Dallas was somehow had them finishing 6-10 each time.  Nowadays I enjoy watching the pregame shows side by side by side, no matter how unfunny the “funny picks guy” may actually be. I still get goosebumps nowadays at 3:45pm…knowing that the next 45 minutes could very well resemble the first day of the NCAA Tournament.  I enjoy Thanksgiving games in Detroit and Dallas…even if they’re played in Pontiac or Arlington.  I cherish those weekends in January when legacies are made.  And I still eat way too much buffalo wing dip on Super Bowl Sunday.

I love the league–but I hate the fact that it never goes away.  The Draft was once an oasis in an offseason desert…and now it’s a three-day buffet that is one day too long.  Getting there is an ordeal with the scouting combine in late February and Free Agency in March (first, FA should be held after the Draft as a roster supplement but that’s just me).  After the Draft the slow drip of OTA’s (Organized Team Activities, not Offseason Torture Antagonism) the next two months we’re given what feels like a week before Training Camps open.

Only the news faucet is never shut in the NFL when the league feels it’s better to worm its way into the conversation, no matter how embarrassing the circumstances.  Deflategate felt like a bad “Saved by the Bell” episode (you might ask yourself, were there any GOOD “Saved by the Bell” episodes?  Yes, three.) with Commissioner Roger Goodell playing the part of Mr. Belding (obviously Tom Brady is Zack, Rob Gronkowski is Slater and Julian Edelman is Screech–with Belichick playing the part of their boss at Malibu Sands Beach Club).  We spent the better part of a calendar year discussing in depth the PSI of a football.  And there might still be more…because the Commish despite appearing to have the legal sensibility of Lionel Hutz refuses to punt after being thrown for a loss by a US District Court Judge.

The NFL is like that buddy who comes to your house for a party and makes the event better than you thought imaginable…only to show up the next day when you have laundry and vacuuming to do.  And they come back the day after that to hang out even though you have work or a wife to focus your energies on.  Or maybe you just don’t want to be confronted with the minutae of their non-party existence.  But here’s the league like the British Empire that never lets the sun set…back for more face-time.

Even the season is getting to be exhausting.  Thursday night games have been shoved down our throats for a decade…with overworked and under-prepared teams combining for subpar product.  If they had teams coming off bye weeks playing instead, you’d have 10 days for players to recuperate and over a week for coaches to create a game plan that doesn’t look like it’s been duct taped together with paper clips.

Sundays are now longer with the London regular season games kicking off at 9:30 a.m. Eastern Time.  I’m just thankful the league hasn’t realized it could really crush the 25-54 demographic with 6 a.m Sunday starts. We have the last laugh on the Brits, though– they’re getting Jacksonville and their two-tone helmets again this year.  The Jaguars instead of failing to sell out their stadium 8 times in a market that never should have gotten an NFL team are averaging over 83,000 fans at Wembley Stadium.  I think the Monkees sold out Wembley too…

Next to expand?  Try the playoffs.  Talk of expanding the postseason to 14 or even 16 teams has been “gathering momentum” according to the commissioner, just like the demand for more games in London is “gaining traction”.  We’ve had more than a few teams reach the playoffs despite records of .500 or less recently…is it necessary to lower the bar even further?  More importantly, where do you put the extra games in the Wildcard Round?  Saturday or Sunday tripleheader?  Extend the playoff weekend to Monday night?

Earlier this year I joked that the NFL was considering expanding its draft to “one round a week” format during April and May so it could further intrude on the Final Four, Major League Baseball’s opening day, the NHL/NBA Playoffs and the annual showing of “The Ten Commandments”.  Obviously I was being facetious– the league would never show that lack of restraint.  They’d much rather go to “two picks a day” between February 15th and June 23rd (June 22nd on Leap Years).

But I still can’t wait until kickoff…

 

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